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Trust Group discusses security situation in Georgia

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, October 29
Georgian officials have denied Russia’s claims that Tbilisi is assisting terrorists entering the country via the border with Chechnya. Border Police Chief Zaza Gogava met the members of the Trust Group on Wednesday and said after the meeting, initiated by the Christian Democrats, that no violations of this border have been recorded in 2009.

“The statements made by Russian officials that terrorists are being trained in Georgia and then going to Russia and committing terrorist acts are not true,” Gogava told journalists. He said the Georgian side is “fully controlling” the border, including “remote roads and small paths.” The Border Police Chief said Georgia is not able to control the border in the occupied territories, but “I hope the Georgian side will be able to do it soon,” Gogava said.

Gogava said that the Border Police will intensify its work at the borders with Chechnya, Ingushetia and Daghestan. “There are some weak points on the northern border where we will strengthen our work,” Gogava noted.

The Deputy Head of the Counterterrorist Centre Zurab Maisuradze also denied the presence of terrorists in Georgia. “We informed the members of the Trust Group that there are no terrorists in Georgia and any information to the contrary is a lie,” Maisuradze said after the meeting with Trust Group members in Parliament. The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Gela Bezhuashvili, who also reported to the Trust Group about the situation in terms of intelligence, said that there is a “high” risk of provocations all along the border with Russia. Speaking to journalists after making his report, Bezhuashvili said that Russia raising the Pankisi Gorge issue is a “provocation”. “The whole border is risky, because it might be used for different provocations, and the sea border is also a risky zone,” he said.

The Parliamentary opposition members say Russia’s claims are not true and are aimed at spoiling Georgia’s image. “These allegations serve to create an image of Georgia as an unstable state in the eyes of the international community,” Christian Democratic Movement leader Giorgi Targamadze said. He said that the information provided by the Georgian special services coincides with his party’s information about possible provocations. “It seems that our predictions and the analysts’ evaluations that the year 2010 will bear some serious threat are realistic. So the relevant bodies should be mobilised to prevent, localise or eliminate these threats,” Targamadze said.

The Parliamentary opposition leader stressed the importance of the border guards’ work. “More than 4,000 border guards fulfill their responsibilities in very difficult conditions. We hope that next year their capabilities will not be diminished, on the contrary, they will be increased. The land border with Russia is more than 800 kilometres long and controlling it involves a lot of difficulties,” Targamadze noted.

Targamadze expressed hope that the “Government will realise the importance of the Intelligence Service and not decrease its funding.” According to the first draft of the 2010 state budget Foreign Intelligence Service funding will be cut by GEL 200,000. Currently the Intelligence Service receives GEL 6 million annually from the state budget. Targamadze said that there is a need to discuss this issue at a Security Council Session. “We should raise this subject with the President also,” he noted. “The main priority of our country is security and this should not become a subject for speculation. We hope the whole political spectrum will be able to act jointly on this issue,” Targamadze pointed out.

Conflicts analysts also suggest that the threat of an escalation of tensions in Pankisi Gorge is realistic. “There are a lot of Russian citizens living in the Pankisi and Truso Gorges, as well as in the Kazbegi region. Russia might use them to stage provocations in Georgia,” analyst Malkhaz Chemia said. “Moreover, Russia has adopted a law giving it the right to enter a foreign country to defend its own citizens,” he noted. Chemia said the way to prevent military confrontation is to create an international monitoring group which would watch the situation in Pankisi and Truso Gorges. “It would be good to include even Russian monitors in the group. I think this group would block Russia’s attempts to destabilise the situation in Georgia,” Chemia noted.